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Cheerleaders attend pols' fundraisers

Small group from Estancia wears uniforms to McCarthy's fundraiser but dressed in plainclothes at Mensinger's event. Students didn't know they were not allowed to represent the school at political events.

June 29, 2012|By Joseph Serna

Estancia High School cheerleaders on Thursday attended a political fundraiser for a Costa Mesa City Council candidate — the second time this a month.

But this time they didn't sport their uniforms.

The group — seven of the squad's 30 or so cheerleaders — acted as greeters at Councilman Steve Mensinger's campaign kick-off at South Coast Collection, but did not don their Estancia gear, cheer Coach Yumi Wantanabe-Patterson said.

On June 14, seven uniformed Estancia cheerleaders greeted guests to Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy's campaign launch for City Council at The Triangle.

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Though the students bought their own uniforms, representing their school at a political fundraiser violates state Education Code, City Council candidate Marshall Krupp told school district officials in a letter last week.

"I place absolutely no blame on the young adults who were asked to participate in this event in their Estancia High School Cheer Team uniforms," Krupp wrote in the June 21 letter. "In my opinion, adults should not abuse or misuse these regulations or exploit their relationships with the public schools that they are connected to for their own personal or political gain."

School officials concurred that a violation took place, however unknowingly, and both candidates said they are active in youth athletic programs and enjoy their support.

The cheer team members did not receive any community service credit for going to either event, Wantanabe-Patterson said, adding that attendance was voluntary and squarely about education.

"It's good to see them at least interested," the second-year coach said. "I tell them all the time that they're the future leaders of the city and whole community. They need to pay attention and open their eyes and look things up and make their own decisions on what you want to do. … It's nice for me to see that they're interested in seeing how things work in the big picture."

Only one of the seven cheerleaders who attended McCarthy's event also went to Mensinger's.

McCarthy and Mensinger are involved in Costa Mesa United, a youth sports fundraising organization, and each donated $250 to the school's cheer program after their events.

"It was a pleasant surprise," Wantanabe-Patterson said of the donations. "We always go into these things hoping."

McCarthy said critics should spend more time promoting Newport-Mesa school programs and less time questioning student involvement.

Mensinger pointed out that Estancia's football players were at his campaign event too. Mensinger is also active in Estancia's football program.

"Whenever I have an event, even if it's not a political event, if we do a walk, the football and cheer programs always help out," he said. "We compensate and donate to their programs … the reality is schools give [virtually] zero to these programs."

No one was reprimanded for the initial violation and school district employees were reminded of the rules regarding school uniforms at outside events, said Estancia High School Principal Kirk Bauermeister.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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